Jury selection is expected to begin today in U.S. District Court in Detroit in a trial in which a Highland Park police officer is accused of using excessive force against an inmate in the city’s lockup.
Sgt. Brenda Stevenson also is charged with lying to federal investigators in the November 2007 incident.
Veretta Burnett, 33, was arrested after fighting with her neighbors on Nov. 5, 2007, and taken to the city’s mini-station, court records said. That’s when, according to the records, the brutality began.
Burnett, who is suing Stevenson and the City of Highland Park in civil court, claims Stevenson handcuffed her to the holding cage and repeatedly punched her until blood began pouring from her face.
She was not taken to the hospital until the following morning, according to the lawsuit.
Highland Park Police Chief Theodore Cadwell II said an internal investigation is ongoing.
On Tuesday, Stevenson, 45, is to go on trial. She is charged with one count of using excessive force and one count of making false statements to an FBI agent.
If convicted of using excessive force, she could face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The second charge carries a penalty of up to five years in prison and $250,000 fine upon conviction.
According to a federal indictment, Stevenson lied to federal investigators, saying that Burnett struggled and fought with her and other officers in an attempt to leave the station. Stevenson said she never hit or punched Burnett.
A grand jury indicted Stevenson on July 9. Trainor said officers in the mini station backed up Burnett’s account.
“They certainly wouldn’t take the case if it was her word against the police officer,” Trainor said of federal prosecutors.
Cadwell said an internal investigation is ongoing and would not be concluded while there is a trial pending. Stevenson continues to work for the department.
In her lawsuit against Stevenson, filed in October in federal court, Burnett said that she repeatedly asked why she was arrested but was ignored. Trainor said Burnett was the one who flagged police after a fight started with her neighbors.
Despite Burnett’s injuries, Stevenson left her “standing handcuffed to the cage, bleeding and in pain for hours,” the lawsuit said. Burnett said she was not allowed “to use the restroom facilities and refused medical attention,” despite requesting it.
Burnett was not taken to Detroit Receiving Hospital until the following morning, according to the suit.
“It sounds like torture what they did to her,” Trainor said.
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